Watch CBS News

Suspect in deadly spa shootings may have "sexual addiction," sheriff says

8 dead in Atlanta-area spa shootings
6 Asian women among 8 dead in Atlanta-area spa shootings 03:45

Authorities said the suspect in the deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area spas admitted to carrying out Tuesday evening's rampage and was on his way to Florida, where officials feared he would harm more people. "As tragic as this was … this could have been significantly worse," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters.

Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said during a Wednesday morning press conference the 21-year-old suspect claimed the shootings weren't racially motivated, even though six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent. The suspect has been charged with eight counts of murder, four in Cherokee County and four in Atlanta, officials said.

The suspect indicated he "has some issues, potentially sexual addiction," Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said. The suspect also indicated he may have frequented some of the spas in the past, Reynolds said. Baker said the suspect saw the spas as a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.

The sheriff's office identified the suspect as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who was taken into custody 150 miles south of Atlanta. Investigators believe he was acting alone. The suspect is being held without bond, the sheriff's office said.

The suspect also faces an aggravated assault charge. A Hispanic man shot in Cherokee County was in stable condition at a hospital, Baker said.

The targeted businesses were not on the Atlanta Police Department's radar, Bottoms said, describing the spas as "legally operating." Six of the victims were identified as women of Asian descent, CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports. Four of the victims are of Korean descent, South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed to CBS News.

Atlanta mayor and police give update on spa shootings 25:03

The other victims were identified as a White woman and a White man, WGCL-TV reports. Police wouldn't say whether any of the slain victims worked at the spas. 

The victims of the Cherokee County shooting were identified as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. 

Waffle House released a statement Wednesday in memory of Yaun, who the company said worked at the chain as a server. The company described Yaun as "well-liked," and said "There simply are no words that can adequately convey the deep sense of loss and grief" the company feels over her death.

Baker said he didn't know if the suspect expressed remorse to investigators, but Baker said they got the impression he understood the gravity of his alleged actions. "He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did," Baker said.

The string of shootings started Tuesday evening at a spa in Cherokee County, 30 miles north of Atlanta. In Atlanta, police later responded to shootings at two spas across the street from one another.

After the first shooting, the sheriff's office posted to social media an image of the suspect and his vehicle from surveillance video, and the suspect's parents identified him from the image, Baker said. Reynolds said the suspect's family is "very distraught, and they were very helpful in this apprehension."

Police were able to track the suspect's phone, Reynolds said. A Georgia State Patrol trooper saw the suspect's vehicle traveling south on Interstate 75, and troopers and sheriff's deputies performed a maneuver to get the suspect off the highway. 

Baker said the suspect made a comment that he was heading to Florida to "go do some similar act" on "some type of porn industry." Baker didn't provide additional details.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she and President Biden "grieve for the loss."

"The investigation is ongoing," she said. "We don't yet know, we're not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people."

Later at the White House, Mr. Biden told reporters he was briefed on the shootings by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. "Whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian Americans are very concerned," the president said, referring to the recent rise in anti-Asian attacks across the country, which he called "very troublesome."

Mr. Biden said he would speak more about the shootings when the investigation was completed.

Li Cohen, Jen Kwon, April Siese and Mark Strassmann contributed reporting.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.